Maine Crafts Association announces 2018 MCA Master Craft Artist Award Recipient Steve Cayard, Master Birch Bark Canoe Builder

The Maine Crafts Association (MCA), a statewide non-profit organization promoting the work of Maine’s craft artists, has named birch bark canoe builder Steve Cayard of Wellington, Maine as a 2018 recipient of the MCA Master Craft Artist Award. David Wolfe and Patricia Daunis-Dunning, both of Portland, Maine, are also 2018 recipients.

Recipients are selected for demonstrating excellence in craftsmanship, inspired design, a singular voice or style, and a career of service to the field.

A Celebration, Awards Presentation and Reception for the 2018 Awardees will be announced at a later date.

In recognition of 10 years of the MCA Master Craft Artist Award, all recipients from 2009 through 2018 will be featured in an exhibition at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA in 2019. Exhibition dates are June 8-October 27, 2019 with a public opening reception on Sunday, June 9, 2019 from 2-5pm.

The 2018 MCA Master Craft Award nomination process began in late 2017 with submissions from past award recipients, members of the Maine Crafts Association, and the public. The 2018 recipient was selected by Andres Verzosa, an art advocate, collector, curator, and writer with a distinguished history of service to Maine artists and arts organizations.

Verzosa writes, “We have a lot to be proud of in the Maine arts community, the state is rich with master-level artists. From the long list of stellar nominees, I’ve selected three who are highly regarded by their peers, possess accomplished bodies of work, demonstrate long histories of working in their communities, and have achieved significant recognition in their field. Patricia Daunis-Dunning’s designs have been worn nationally for decades, and her studio is a place of growth for many up-and-coming jewelers. Steve Cayard was a catalyst in the renaissance of birch bark canoe-making with David Moses Bridges (deceased in 2017) and is included in the 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial.  David Wolfe is a leader in the Portland printmaking community; his print house serves as hub and resource, and places Portland on a national scale map for printmaking.”


Master birchbark canoe maker Steve Cayard settled in Wellington, Maine in 1987. His canoes are based on careful research and are faithful to the tradition of the early Wabanaki birchbark canoes of Maine and New Brunswick- a  style which eventually became the model for the wood-canvas canoes of Old Town, E. M. White and Chestnut, among others. Cayard has been sought out by native communities as a teacher, and he has felt honored to offer them his knowledge in a series of workshops in Maine and New Brunswick.  He has also taught birchbark canoe building classes for the general public. He completed his first birchbark canoe in 1978 and has been building on commission since 1995. In 1998, Cayard was honored with a request by the National Museum of the American Indian to restore an 1890s birch bark canoe by well-known Passamaquoddy canoe builder Tomah Joseph. In 2002 Barry Dana, then chief of the Penobscot Nation, invited Cayard to lead a birchbark canoe workshop on Indian Island, the Penobscot reservation in Old Town, Maine.  This became the first in a number of on-site canoe workshops that Cayard taught in the Wabanaki communities. Cayard’s work has been featured in WoodenBoat Magazine and his collaborative canoe with the late David Moses Bridges (commissioned by the Abbey Museum in Bar Harbor) was recognized for inclusion in the 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial.

Kathleen Mundell remarks, “Steve’s life long quest reminds us of how important the role one person can play in shaping a tradition and, in turn, how influential a tradition can be in shaping the individual craftsperson. For Steve, building canoes is a creative way to renew and reinvigorate an ancient tradition. By working with tribal members, he has not only reintroduced specific cultural knowledge and techniques, but also helped restore an endangered Native American practice.”

Susan Bickford tells this story: “I attended the launching of a canoe that Steve made for the Damariscotta River Association in collaboration with Lincoln Academy students. I watched the students carrying the breathtakingly beautiful canoe a mile or so down the hill from school to the public landing in town, and observed the students, beaming with pride and wonder as a Native American uncle blessed the canoe and gave thanks to the trees. The honor the students had was palpable – no angst, no looking at phones, no wishing for something other than this experience and the very present.”